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MVP International Law Office Real Estate and Property & Thai Property Law In Bangkok, Puket, Pattaya, Koh Samui and Chaingmai
Thailand's property and real estate laws can seem fairly restrictive as applied to foreigners, but they are really no different from other countries where special treaties are not in place. Although foreigners may own buildings, condominium units or houses, in their own names, Thai law stipulates that foreigners cannot own Thai land in their own names. There are, however, several ways in which foreigners can acquire land rights in the Kingdom of Thailand ...
Choice #1 - The romantic solution
Meet and marry a Thai person you love and trust, buy house and land in his or her name, and live happily together ever after! This beautifully simple solution is, for reasons we will not discuss here, the least popular option. It is, however, not uncommon, and thank goodness for that!
Choice # 2 Leasing 30-years
Leasing is legally the simplest, most straightforward way to own land rights in Thailand, a solution used by foreigners and Thais alike. Land lease contracts can cover periods of 30 years, or 3 times 30 years, or can confer rights equivalent to freehold ownership to the buyer.

If the intention of the seller is to transfer rights equivalent to freehold ownership to the buyer and a leasing solution is used as the best legal alternative, the actual purchase contract will reflect this intention by featuring clauses concerning renewal of the lease or freehold sale of the property, putting control of these with the lessee and obliging the lessor to provide and sign (and stamp if a company) the required documents at any given time. This is a business agreement concerning the buyer's right to resell, not the buyer's ownership rights, and is supported by Thai commercial and civil law.

The actual contract to lease the land for the first 30 years, and the buyer's rights therein to build and own, is the part of the whole agreement which is covered by Thai land law and which can be registered with the Land Department. If the intention of the buyer is to lease for 30 years only, a retirement plan or perhaps a commercial plan, this part of the agreement covers all ownership aspects.
Thai land lease contracts, therefore, are all based on the registerable 30 years period for which a standard contract is often used, and thereafter make the appropriate agreements between buyer and seller in the purchase contract. The registered 30-year lease contracts are in the Thai language but they are, of course, accompanied by notarized English translations. With all this paperwork in order, the future of a lease can be considered legally fully secure.

MVP-property's land lease solutions, created in-house and executed in cooperation with our legal associates, costs THB 75,000. The registration fee payable at the Land Office is 1% of the property value stated in the contract, which is normally equal to the Land Office's appraised value of the property, which in turn is normally far less than the actual market value.
Choice # 3 - Limited Company
This option has long been the most popular way of enabling foreigners to acquire land in Thailand. It involves the incorporation of a limited company, a "Thai Juristic Person" with the undeniable right to own land, using the identities of voluntary Thai persons as shareholder nominees and the establishment of the foreign investor as sole executive director of the company. During 2006, the Thai government made moves to control use of this solution because it has been abused by many foreigners conducting real estate business with Thai land without any real involvement of Thai people, which is illegal. The company solution is facilitated and allowed for domestic property acquisitions by a generous interpretation of applicable laws by government officers because of the enormous value of foreign investment in Thai property. Creating such companies is a little more difficult and costly to do than before, but this solution is still highly viable and effective.

Many properties are already owned by foreigners under the company model, and the most expedient way to buy these is as follows: One does not actually buy the property, one buys the company director's shares and is installed as the company's sole executive director, thereby taking over full control of the company and its asset, the property. This takeover procedure must, of course, be administrated by a law firm or agency with the knowledge and experience to do it properly. All documents are in the Thai language, but English translations can be provided and notarized.

MVP property's company solutions, created in cooperation with our legal associates, cost THB 105,000 and it takes one month to incorporate a new company and register the property. The transfer fees payable at the Land Office normally amount to 6.35% of the property value stated in the registration documentation, which is normally agreed by buyer and seller at a value far less than the actual purchase price.

There has been some speculation that the Thai government (perhaps a future, extremely nationalistic one) would at some point cause upset by declaring all these companies illegal and confiscating these properties. However, MVP property Estate Agents Co. Ltd. has been assured by government officials at the Land Office (the local office of the Department of Lands) where the land registry is maintained, and at the Commercial Registrations Office (the local office of the Department of Commerce) where companies are registered, that such companies are safe as long as they adhere to the regulations governing companies. The most important issues are annual audits and displaying of the company name at its registered address. Furthermore, there is general agreement in the international community that any such extreme actions by Thai authorities would immediately halt international investment and be disastrous for the Thai economy, and that a breakdown of this type is most unlikely to occur.
Choice # 4 - Condominiums
Under condominium law, up to 49% of the units in a condominium complex can be owned by foreign nationals. To ensure that the registration of ownership goes smoothly, there are clear procedures which ought to be followed correctly: Foreigners buying condos must transfer funds in foreign currency from a bank account outside Thailand to an account at a Thai bank. The name of the transferee must be the same as the name that will appear on the final purchase contract, ie. the buyer. Use Bangkok Bank or Kasikorn Bank (f.k.a. Thai Farmer's Bank), the only two with full international services and English speaking staff, and be sure that the funds transfer documentation stipulates that the funds will be used to purchase a condominium. It is also common to transfer funds to the escrow accounts of estate agents or lawyers administrating the condo purchase, who can ensure that the correct documentation is collected from the receiving bank. Transfers must be made in amounts USD 20.000 or more in order to qualify for Foreign Exchange Transaction Forms issued by the receiving bank to verify that the originating funding came from outside Thailand in a currency other than Thai Baht. This bank certificate confirms the origin and purpose of the funds and furthermore facilitates the repatriation of the funds if/when the condo is later sold. The Department of Lands (Land Office) may refuse to execute ownership transfers if these bank certificates cannot be produced. There is a great deal of paperwork, which can be very awkward to correct if first done wrongly, required for the purchase of condos, so please do use a qualified agent or lawyer to handle this.

MVP property's condominium acquistion service, provided in cooperation with our lawyers, costs THB 75,000 and involves full cooperation with banks and with the seller of the condo. The registration fees and taxes payable at the Land Office can ammount to 6.35% of the purchase price.
Choice # 5 - Vacation Investment Program
On 25 November 2006, the Royal Thai Government presented its first fully-comprehensive solution for foreign ownership of Thai property at a public meeting in Hua Hin attended by MVP property Estate Agents Co. Ltd. and other estate agencies and property developers. Perhaps the most secure solution by virtue of its governmental endorsement and management, this solution is, however, by far the most expensive, although it does come with several advantages.
When property is transferred from seller to buyer, there are some taxes to pay at the Land Office. The Land Office has its own, forever changing, evaluations of land in different locations, and this is how the "appraised" value of the land is set. The appraised value of buildings is 5,250.00 baht per square meter, no matter their quality and features. These two values together constitute the basis for calculation of the Registration Fee (2%) and the Stamp Duty (0.5%). Then there is the "registered" value of the property, which is the basis of the Withholding Tax (1%, falls away if the seller has owned the land for more than 5 years) and the Business Tax (3.3%). It would be entirely correct to register the property at the price one is actually paying, but this never done (to lessen the tax impact), except with condos where the purchase contract must be presented at the Land Office. Normal practice decrees that buyer and seller agree what value they will state at the Land Office, and this value is normally set just a little over the appraised value. It would also be entirely correct for the buyer to pay the Registration Fee and Stamp Duty, and for the seller to pay the Business Tax and Withholding Tax, but arrangement is seldom made. Normally, the entire tax bill is bourne equally by both parties.